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Smoltz Enters the Superunknown

Soundgarden references aside, John Smoltz is entering uncharted territory. After a year away from baseball due to shoulder surgery, Smoltz is set to make his season debut tonight at Nationals Park when he takes the mound for the visiting Boston Red Sox.

Smoltz has never played in the American League before, has never played for Boston before and is looking to come back from major surgery for the second time in his career but this time at the advanced age of 42.

Smoltz has the distinction of being the only pitcher to ever tally 200 wins and 150 saves all of which he did with the Atlanta Braves. Smoltz didn't even start racking up saves until the 2001 season, which was the year he came back from missing a year due to Tommy John surgery.

See, the surgery part isn't new to Smoltz; he's been there and done that. He's transitioned from starter to closer and back so he's faced adversity on the mound. What will be different is that despite posting a 1-1 record with a 2.63 ERA in six rehab starts, no one is exactly sure what kind of pitcher he is at this point. How fast can he throw? Will having his torn labrum repaired add life to his fastball or take away from a pitch that routinely hit the mid-90's?

For his part, Smoltz seems incredibly confident that he can be just as effective this season as he has been in years past, telling the Associated Press, "It's just a new chapter in which when I have a baseball in my hand, I feel like I can make a pitch and do the things I have to do to take the sting out of the bat."

Smoltz added, "I have enough pitches to get hitters out. And the stuff that everyone's talking about might be different, so be it, but I think the ability to pitch and get guys out will be the same."

Smoltz's mission and his steadfast belief in himself reminds me (an admitted Lost lover) of the John Locke refrain, "Don't tell me what I can't do!"

Smoltz has history, if not time, on his side. But unlike his former rotation-mate Tom Glavine, he's got the support of his organization behind him.

"He's gone through a lot to put himself in a position where I think he can help us win a lot of games," Red Sox Manager Terry Francona told the AP. "He wanted to pitch into the playoffs. I think he's tried to put himself into a position where that'll happen."

Well tonight is Smoltz's first step towards that goal in a Red Sox uniform, I guess we'll see what he can or can't do.

By CJ Holley  |  June 25, 2009; 12:14 PM ET
Categories:  Braves , Red Sox  | Tags: atlanta braves, boston red sox, john smoltz, tommy john surgery  
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